Sun Protection Is Essential To Skin Healthon Monday, June 13, 2016
Summer time means pool time, and beach time, and camping and adventures in the sun. But be sure to take care of your skin! Water and sunscreen can go a long way.
Whether it’s dark or light, freckled or clear, soft or slightly rough, the skin on the human body serves many purposes. Often underappreciated or unnoticed for all it does, the skin acts as the front man for scrapes, cuts and burns and the unquestioning recipient of lotions, sunscreens, ointments and creams applied to it for healing and protection purposes. Here are some quick facts to know about the skin.
The skin is the body’s largest organ
“On average, the skin can span about 18 square feet and account for around 20 pounds of a person’s weight,” said Nancy Jones, APRN Dermatology Nurse Practitioner at Saint Mary’s Medical Group.
Because of this, it also is the body’s largest organ, a fact often overlooked. But, just like all other organs in the body, such as the heart and the lungs, the skin serves a specific purpose, too. Specific ‘purposes’ may be more accurate, as the functions of the skin are vast. These include removing waste, regulating body temperature, manufacturing Vitamin D, and serving as a barometer for overall health. Many early warning signs of disease can be detected on the skin, according to Jones.
“The skin may be overlooked as an organ because not many people realize that it does far more than just cover our bones and muscles,” said Jones. “The skin is the first line of defense for illness and disease and is also the passageway to our bloodstream.”
Water is important to the skin, too
Just as it’s important to other organs, water is important to the skin, too.
“The skin, like other organs, is made up of cells, which are made up of water,” said Jones. “Without water, these organs won’t function properly.”
But, sometimes after being exposed to water for a long time, the skin can appear dry instead of replenished. This is due to the skin’s natural oils and secretions being stripped away. Some lotions and moisturizers can have a hydrating effect on the skin, but depending on the ingredients used, others may dry it out instead.
“Most lotions and moisturizers have a drying effect on the skin because they reconstitute cutaneous hydro-lipidic film, which holds waters to the skin,” Jones said. “I recommend starting with a mild, non-alcohol based moisturizer to help seal and keep moisture on the skin.”
That said, a person’s ability to absorb water and lotion depend on a variety of other factors, too, including diet, genetics, their current state of health and climate.
Skin is Key to Absorbing Vitamin D
It’s true the skin is essential to absorbing Vitamin D from the sun, but that melanin – or the natural pigment in the skin – can compete with UVB for Vitamin D production, according to Jones. In other words, people who have higher levels of melanin absorb less of the sun’s Vitamin D than people with lower levels.
“It’s important to note however, there are additional ways to ensure you are receiving adequate amounts of Vitamin D other than sun exposure,” Jones said.
Other factors that have an impact on Vitamin D absorption include geographic location, specific angle to the sun, the overall number of daylight hours and even the weather, according to Jones.
People who want to find out more about healthy levels of Vitamin D levels can talk to their physician. Vitamin D supplementation is a possible option, if needed. And, although those with lower melanin levels may be better able to absorb Vitamin D, they also can be at vulnerable risk to the cancer-causing rays of the sun, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
“However, it’s extremely important to note that all skin types and colors require sun protection as skin cancer is prevalent in each diversity of skin color,” Jones said.
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